Most Americans envision hot days, flags, barbeques, swimming pools, and fireworks when they think about July. You might be surprised to learn there is more to celebrate in July than America’s independence.
July is Disability Pride Month
July is also Disability Pride Month. The celebration started in Boston with the first Disability Pride Day in 1990, which happens to be the same year the Americans with Disabilities Act became law. Fourteen years later, the first Disability Pride Parade was held in Chicago, and the celebration continues to grow. Today, Disability Pride parades take place around the world!
If you have never heard of this holiday, you are not alone. I am disabled, and I just learned of the celebration two years ago. In the interest of full disclosure, many people with disabilities are still grappling with the concept of celebrating their disability. Having a disability traditionally means you are broken. For some, being disabled may seem worse than dying. That leaves a lot of people wondering what we are celebrating.
The more we learn from people who have challenges, the more we are able to face and manage our own challenges and fears. – Sally Gelardin, EdD
Why Do We Celebrate Disabilities
Disability Pride is not about celebrating the disability itself; it is about celebrating the things disabled people can do, raising awareness of issues that impact people with disabilities, and showcasing the impact people with disabilities can have on the world.
I believe differences make us stronger, and that applies to everyone. In the spirit of Disability Pride Month, I encourage you become better acquainted with a disabled person. People with disabilities are as unique as their disabilities and will have developed different skills while managing their disability. Regardless of the diagnosis (PTSD, autism, dyslexia, cancer, anxiety, etc.), you will likely find people with disabilities have unique skills or points of view to offer.
For example, I was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a progressive disease that impacts my nervous system and weakens my muscles, at the age of six. I have worn leg braces my entire life, walked with crutches for twenty years, and I began using a wheelchair in 2020. It takes me longer than most people to do many things, and I cannot do things the way most people do. Because of these challenges, I have learned to be flexible, adaptable, and creative. Change is a constant for me, and I have learned to embrace the challenges it brings.
This experience serves me well as a Process Improvement Consultant. I compensate for the fact my body moves slowly by being efficient and creative, and it has become an automatic thought process for me. When given a new assignment, my brain will start analyzing the fastest approach before I am even aware of it.
Given the opportunity and necessary accommodations, disabled people can contribute a great deal to your team. If you are interested in helping co-workers with a disability, a simple way to show support is to offer accommodations for your meetings. Reach out to Human Resources if you are not familiar with your company polices, and then try adding this phrase to your meeting invites:
<Insert company name> is committed to providing accessible and inclusive programming for all members of our community. If you have dietary restrictions or would like to request an accommodation, please contact <insert your name> at <your email address> at least 48 hours in advance of the event.
Interested in learning more?
To learn more about the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act, check out the Netflix documentary, “Crip Camp”, or read Being Heuman by Judith Heuman.
About the Author: Amy Jenkins
Process Improvement Consultant, ONE Gas
Amy Jenkins is the founder and chair of CAPABLE, a ONE Gas employee resource group created to promote understanding and provide support for employees with disabilities and for those supporting loved ones with all kinds of disabilities. She is committed to learning about people from all walks of life and finding equitable solutions to problems businesses face today. Amy has more than fifteen years of experience at ONE Gas and is currently a process improvement consultant.